Records are tumbling on the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway as trains connect Broadway with Cheltenham for the first time in 58 years, passenger numbers having doubled compared with the 2017 Easter holiday.
The Cotswolds heritage railway opened its brand new Broadway station on Good Friday 30 March with crowds of well-wishers both watching and travelling on the 09.40 departure for Cheltenham, the first public train from the village since 6 March 1960, when the station was closed by British Railways. Since then, most trains have been very busy.
A delighted Colin Fewell, the railway’s voluntary commercial director confirmed that almost 6,300 fare-paying passengers travelled on the extended, nearly 15-mile line over the Easter weekend and the following week – compared with just over 3,100 during the Easter period last year.
“Despite the cold and wet, as was Easter last year, our trains have been filled with happy people enjoying the novelty of being among the first people this century, to travel on a public train service to or from Broadway.
“Passenger numbers are double what they were last Easter,” he said. “Thanks to huge volunteer effort in rebuilding the railway and constructing a brand new station on the site of the original, which was demolished way back in 1963, we have enormously expanded the scope of our railway.
“Enthusiasm for seeing the track reach Broadway once again was amply demonstrated by the fact that our two share issues to pay for repair of bridges and complete the last mile of line to Broadway station were substantially over-subscribed.
‘Wychavon District Council has also strongly supported our growth because they can see the economic benefits the railway will bring to Broadway and the wider community.”
The railway’s officials have been inundated with comments of congratulation from thousands of people – not just rail enthusiasts but local people excited at seeing ‘their’ station opening once again.
But much work remains – not least completing Broadway station including the signalling, the footbridge and a building on the second platform. Elsewhere on the popular Cotswolds tourist line, new staff facilities are needed for the locomotive department and a building to house the railway’s venerable fleet of 60-year-old railway carriages.
Several of the century-old steel bridges on the line also need remedial work.
“We will be concentrating on this over the immediate future and improving the experience and enjoyment for our ever-increasing number of visitors,” added Colin Fewell.
“Lots of people are asking when we are going to extend our line further – for example, to Honeybourne, or south towards Cheltenham.
“But while these aspirations are certainly not ruled out, they aren’t going to happen any time soon – we have plenty to concentrate with on the 15 miles of line we now have!”
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